Friday, July 29, 2011

Movie Review: “Cowboys & Aliens”

Not perfect but still tons o' fun. Giddy up pardners.

**** out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.
118 minutes
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens on Blogcritics.

All film genres generally boil down to a matter of personal taste. Most general filmgoers probably don’t prefer westerns for their simmering runtimes while others still like to see some dirt getting kicked up on the big screen. Sci-fi is certainly picking up some slack as of lately and is becoming more mainstream every year. While both have been around as far back as movies have been made, they usually don’t cross their streams. I generally prefer the western to sci-fi if only because they tend to be more fun and don’t take themselves as seriously as most sci-fi tend to, but alas it was bound to happen that eventually the two would marry for a summer blockbuster as it now has with Jon Favreau’s “Cowboys & Aliens.”

To make a list of the heavy hitters involved is quite impressive. In the producer's chairs you’ve got Favreau himself, along with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, and Steven Spielberg. In the writer category you’ve also got three of the credited screenwriters in Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Damon Lindelof (all three also producing), best known as a trio of J.J. Abrams’ personal cronies. Then when you consider it stars James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), you can’t help but take a deep breath to prepare yourself for what you’re about to partake of.

However, the two additional writers (Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby) have worked with Favreau before on the first “Iron Man”. While they are credited with the story and co-writing, it would appear that the Abrams crew was possibly brought in to polish things up. How much is left of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s original story is unknown to me. I tried to read it and could only get through the first ten pages of his graphic novel. It is awful. Let’s just say that there’s aliens, there’s cowboys, and that’s probably all that remains the same and it’s all for our better.

In “Cowboys & Aliens,” things could get summed up rather quickly. A man (Craig) with no name (because he can’t remember it) awakens in the Arizona desert with a bloody slit in his side, a photo, and some sort of device attached to his wrist. After violently taking out three armed men, he heads into Absolution where all he wants to do is get a drink and be left alone. A woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) seems to know who he is and soon enough, Sheriff John Taggart (Keith Carradine) recognizes him as Jake Lonergan, wanted for lots of things, most importantly the murder of Alice (Abigail Spencer), seen only in flashback, naturally.

Soon enough, we find out the thing on Jake’s wrist is some kind of extraterrestrial boomstick when alien ships whiz through town picking up a few townsfolk along the way. Including, but not limited to, Taggert, local saloon owner Doc’s (Sam Rockwell) wife Maria (Ana de la Reguera), and Woodrow Dolarhyde’s (Ford) son Percy (Paul Dano). Now, a posse sets out to chase after the “demon” visitors including Jake, Ella, Doc, and Dolarhyde, along with Dolarhyde’s surrogate American Indian son Nat (Adam Beach), a dog, and Taggart’s grandson Emmett (Noah Ringer). It’s not long before we finally learn why the aliens are here and what they want with and from us.

While most will be heading in with a certain expectation since Universal’s marketing department is trumpeting the film as “From the director of “Iron Man,” which, of course, it is; don’t be expecting this to be a western/alien themed version of that. This film has a whole tone of its own and, while it is able to sneak in a few one-liners, it’s nowhere near as jokey as you’d think coming from a comic book adaptation. The comic book takes itself way too seriously, and while the film doesn’t exactly float on the fluffy side, make no mistake that this is one wild ride.

It also can’t be ignored that while none of the writers were involved with this summer’s (and so far year’s) best film “Super 8”, Spielberg was, so it should come as little surprise that some of the aliens here bear a slight resemblance to that film’s own “Cooper.” But these aliens are far from just wanting to phone home. They are malicious and pretty scary. Some of Favreau’s choices of shots even make you wonder if he filmed with a 3-D conversion in mind as a precaution. But thankfully the film never went that direction. A lot of this film is dark, and we all know those cursed glasses act more like wearing sunglasses which would just make sitting through most of the film unbearable.

On a side note, it was also nice to see a summer blockbuster featuring a “special makeup and animatronics” credit for a change. Yes, a lot of what you see during the big action scenes were obviously done with a computer, but a lot of what makes the aliens here work so well is the use of good ol’ fashioned men in suits. There’s something far creepier about actual alien appendages coming at you than just another CGI effect. So while the dust may be settling from this summer’s two biggest money makers (“Transformers 3” and “HP 7.2”), there’s still time left for these “Cowboys & Aliens” to kick up a little more.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Movie Review: “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

Pretty, Brilliant, Film!

***** out of 5
Rated PG-13 for coarse humor, sexual content and language.
118 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love. on Blogcritics.

Everyone must know at least something about love, right? Most people don’t wanna talk about it while all the youngsters think that’s all they want. Being a helpless romantic is probably even harder. All we want is to find that one somebody to wake up next to for the rest of our lives. Seems like an odd subject matter at first coming from the the writers of the Billy Bob Thornton-starring “Bad News Bears” and “Bad Santa,” directors of “I Love You, Phillip Morris,” along with their throwaway kid flick “Cats & Dogs.”

Yet if you’ve actually seen “Phillip Morris” you’ll know right away that an examination of love in all the wrong (and right) places isn’t too big of a stretch for Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, for there’s always been at least a little bit of heart in place. Ok, maybe not so much with “Bears,” but even “Santa” had a reasonable change of heart after dealing with the likes of Thurman Merman and his crazy grandmother.

In “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” we find two very different men at two very opposite ends of the love spectrum. Cal (Steve Carell) loves his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) possibly too much. While she decides to announce she wants a divorce when all he wants is crème brûlée, he gives her what she wants. So much so that while she nervously chats away on the ride home he tuck and rolls out the passenger door. Talk about fight or flight.

Meanwhile, Jacob (Ryan Gosling) is living the life of luxury, bedding one woman after the next. All except for one Hannah (Emma Stone), that is. She only has eyes for her boyfriend Richard (Josh Groban) because he’s nice and cute. But Hannah’s "PG-13 rated" life isn’t good enough for Hannah’s best friend Liz (Liza Lapira). She encourages her to step up her game to at least an R rating but Hannah just wants to play it safe, she is after all, frying bigger fish with studying to pass the bar exam after all.

Now Cal is out on his own, while his son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is more stunned by the fact that his dad jumped from a moving vehicle than he is about the divorce. Robbie completely looks up to his father. And as the babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) points out, their kids are the only kids she sits for who actually want to stay up for dad to come home. They all get excited for mom of course, but typically never dad. Jessica probably feels so inclined to tell Emily this because she happens to have a high school crush on Cal and thinks that Emily is “bat shit crazy” for wanting a divorce all because she slept with her coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).

Everyone has their cross to bear and there are a lot of twists and turns let alone a fair share of pure surprises. The ads do not do this film any sort of justice. While at first glance it sort of resembles what you could call “The 40-Year-Old-Born-Again-Virgin,” it’s far better than that. Not to talk down on “Virgin,” it’s still one of the absolute best comedies in years, but “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” is chock full of all kinds of thoughtful and emotional surveys about the topic of love in all its forms. There comes a moment toward the end of the film where a speech is given. In that speech the film’s ultimate point is made, that everyone has a soul mate and when you find that one person you fight for them no matter what. I couldn’t agree with this more. And while it will make far more sense after having seen the film, I just have to say that I’m sure glad I bought that hot chocolate.

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Friday, July 22, 2011

Movie Review: “Friends with Benefits”

The summer's comedy streak continues. Hit it, don't quit it.

**** out of 5
Rated R for some violent content and brief sexuality
109 minutes
Screen Gems

Article first published as Movie Review: Friends with Benefits on Blogcritics.

The sex comedy must be a really hard genre to pull off. While Judd Apatow has recently really nailed it, very few have been able to score any real homeruns. Not even the '80s master himself, Ivan Reitman, could muster up a film that lived up to the expectations of”” his yesteryears. While I was in a huge minority that liked “No Strings Attached”, leave it to Will Gluck, the director of “Easy A”, one of my personal favorites from last year to bring us pretty much the exact same movie, but with far greater results, with “Friends with Benefits.”

We begin with two couples. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Kayla (Emma Stone) are on their way to a John Mayer concert while Jamie (Mila Kunis) Quincy (Andy Samberg) are meeting up to see a screening of “Pretty Woman.” Before you can say happily-ever-after their nights decide to “suck a bag of dicks” and Kayla and Quincy pull the ol’ switcheroo and break up with our protagonists. Now Jamie is picking Dylan up at JFK for a job interview. She’s an “executive recruiter” and has been headhunting Dylan for the past six months for a job in Manhattan. Dylan is on the cusp of selling out from an online blog to art editor for “GQ.” After taking Dylan to her favorite spots to sell him on the NYC life and using a flashmob closer, Dylan accepts the job and uproots himself to the big city. Now he’s a fish out of water in the city where “everyone seems so violent.”

Having no friends in a big city must be tough. It’s not like your co-workers are going to want to hang out with their boss and being from Los Angeles can get you easily shunned in the Big Apple. When the only person who seems to want to hang out with you also happens to be gay (Woody Harrelson) and is continually questioning whether you are, you may seek the comfort in the solace of the only girl you know. After a pseudo montage of hang outs, Dylan and Jamie come to the realization that what happens after the big kiss in romantic comedies happens to be porn. Which should also be emotionless and strictly physical... Uh huh. After swearing on an iPad Bible app, the two vow to remain friends after getting down and dirty. While you may know where everything leads after this, it’s up to the couple and the director to make sure we stay invested.

Having a terrific script and an amazing supporting cast helps as well; not to mention some splendid cameos along the way. Director Gluck may not have brought us an even better film than “Easy A,” but where that film came out of nowhere, this film is hot on the heels of a prior film with the exact same plot. It’s almost how DreamWorks and Pixar used to function. Which is ironic seeming how “No Strings Attached” happens to be a DreamWorks film whereas this is from “the S from Hell,” (aka Screen Gems).It probably doesn’t hurt to have Jerry Zucker (“Airplane!,” “The Naked Gun”) on board as a producer either.

Along with his co-writers (Keith Merryman and David A. Newman), Gluck keeps things trucking along and has a much more spirited lead couple in Kunis and Timberlake compared to Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. While Kutcher may be likeable, it still amazes me how he keeps getting cast in lead roles. Timberlake is far more charismatic and seems to have really honed his comedic skills with his stints on “Saturday Night Live” in their Digital Shorts alongside Samberg and his “Lonely Island” crew. Here we actually want the couple to wind up together in spite of the usual romantic-comedy trappings which goes a long way to the film earning its ending. So take my advice and hit it, don’t quit it, this weekend.

Photos courtesy Screen Gems

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Movie Review: "Captain America: The First Avenger"

“Captain America?” More like “Captain Awesome!”

**** ½ out of 5
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
125 minutes
Paramount Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger on Blogcritics.

Some directors have been in the game long enough that eventually they’ll stop pulling punches and wind up delivering their masterstroke. While there are also other kinds of directors who continually dish out one level of dreck after the next (Uwe Boll), thankfully, Joe Johnston has finally come into his own. While it may all be part of Marvel Studios’ master plan of tying a string of films together into one cohesive story, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” is a truly welcome addition as we wait out for May 4, 2012, when Joss Whedon finally unleashes “The Avengers” upon us.

There’s always been a sense of fun first when it comes to Joe Johnston’s resume. Just look at it – “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “The Rocketeer,” “Jumanji,” even “Jurassic Park III” and “The Wolfman were still pretty solid guilty pleasures. It’s a good thing his screenwriters (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) finally pulled their heads out of their asses with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s creation. When you’re main credits are all three of the dreadfully boring “Chronicles of Narnia” flicks I wasn’t holding my breath. But with assured direction and a studio that cares about their own universe standing behind him, there’s no doubt that “Captain America” will proceed with great box office returns.

With a modern day prologue set somewhere in a random snowscape, an obvious Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) has been lead to an icy tundra where some kind of ship or plane has been discovered. Within he finds a frozen over shield before we’re whisked away to 1942 Germany. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving) is hunting down the almighty Cosmic Cube. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has just been rejected from signing up for the Army for the fifth time. All he wants to do is fight for the little guy, something he knows all too well as he weighs about 90 pounds and fights one kind of chronic illness daily including asthma. Rogers’ best friend “Bucky” (Sebastian Stan) has just been sent out to fight and when Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) overhears them talking about Rogers will to fight for his country he enlists him as part of a special project.

It’s off to boot camp where Rogers meets the love of his life in British Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and his biggest proponent Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones). Or so we think, until Schmidt involves Dr. Arnim Zola in finding a way to harness the unlimited power of the Cosmic Cube to develop a new weapon to take over the world but not before Rogers has become a super soldier and now the two are each others arch nemesis and now Schmidt has become Red Skull, aka HYDRA’s very own version of Hitler. And Rogers is now officially “Captain America,” who’s rounded up his own band of brothers in Timothy ‘Dum Dum’ Dugan (Neal McDonough), Gabe Jones (Derek Luke), Jim Morita (Kenneth Choi), James Montgomery Falsworth (JJ Field), and Jacques Dernier (Bruno Ricci) to fight for what’s right and bring down the evil HYDRA.

While you could nit pick all the homages Johnston throws into his pot, I suppose it was his way of being able to put his own stamp on “Captain America.” Ranging from “Hellboy” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “Return of the Jedi,” sometimes it’s nice to see a director wear his influences on his sleeve. It’s worked for Quentin Tarantino for 18 years so why can’t anyone else do it, right? Some of the film even plays out like a mash up of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” and “War of the Worlds.” You’ll see what I mean.

However, the real glue to everything has to be given credit to Chris Evans. If you’re expecting him to approach Rogers with the machismo that oozed forth from his role in the criminally underseen “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, he’s definitely not aping his Lucas Lee persona here. And he’s particularly come a long way from his performance as Jake Wyler in “Not Another Teen Movie.” He infuses Rogers with a true goodwill and a lot of heart, because after all, that’s why Dr. Erskine handpicked him for the project to begin with.

But in the end, it’s Joe Johnston proving he’s more than just a “shooter” here. He’s become a true craftsman with “Captain America.” While the summer may have already given us one piece of the “Avengers” puzzle with “Thor”, now we get “The First Avenger: who’s far from a slouch. Worry all you want naysayers, Joe Johnston has knocked it out of the park with this one and even manages to give the PG-13 rating a real run for its money. Calling one scene “splattacular” is an understatement and I’m still amazed they pulled it off. It’s also of note that even while being converted to the 3-D format, it finally managed to make me actually dodge something that really looks like its about to come flying at your face. Bravo indeed.

Note: There is supposed to be a final “scene” after the credits but for some reason it was not attached to our screening. Hopefully it finds its way online this weekend. But for everyone else, I think I’ve given you enough reason to step up and buy your tickets for the best action film of the summer.

Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Review: "Winnie the Pooh"

I'd rather spend any day in The Hundred Acre Wood over another wizardly fortress.

**** ½ out of 5
Rated G
69 minutes
Walt Disney Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Winnie the Pooh (2011) on Blogcritics.

John Lasseter may be credited with having directed “Cars 2” but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t paying attention to his other many endeavors. Even with only an executive producer credit it’s painfully obvious he was taking closer care of another project outside of Pixar Animation Studios. While Walt Disney Animation Studios’ last classically animated feature was the well received, blockbuster-lacking “The Princess and the Frog”, I felt it was a great throwback to the studios’ heyday starting back with “The Little Mermaid.” Now with a heavy dose of nostalgia and an arsenal of talented animators it’s literally back to the drawing board for “Winnie the Pooh.”

Bringing the characters to a whole new generation visiting A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood shouldn’t be too difficult a task for directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall. Disney has been continually churning out merchandising, TV shows, and direct-to-video offerings for years. Its biggest obstacle may be presented in the questionable decision to release the “silly old bear” up against one wizarding wizard of Hogwarts. Inexplicable is just about the only word to describe this. Maybe they’re hoping that if the final 3-D installment of the “Potter” series is sold out they can catch a ticket to “Pooh” instead. And at a scant 69 minutes they surely should.

“Winnie the Pooh” begins as it should with a quick live action bedroom scan of one Christopher Robin (voiced by Jack Boulter). Our Narrator (John Cleese) explains that the boy has an overactive imagination, likes to collect things large and small, but that his favorite toys happen to be his stuffed animals. Yes, everyone is back and accounted for. Rabbit (voiced by Tom Kenny), Owl (voiced by Craig Ferguson), Kanga (voiced by Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and Roo (voiced by Wyatt Dean Hall), Piglet (voiced by Travis Oates), and of course Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too (both voiced by Jim Cummings). But the star this time just may be Eeyore (voiced by Bud Luckey).

While Eeyore may not exactly be the main attraction, the new story of “Winnie the Pooh Has a Very Important Thing to Do,” features Eeyore’s tael… err, tail, as the MacGuffin. He has lost his tail and the grand prize of a pot of hunny is up for grabs but the gang has even bigger things to worry about as a “Backson” is on the loose and may have taken their beloved Christopher Robin. It’s all a misunderstanding of course but it’s enough to set everyone off on a series of misadventures to capture the Backson set to tickle the funny bone and warm the heart of course. It’s everything you’d expect from a Disney/Pixar collaboration and is more than enough to make up for the lengthy but still highly enjoyable “Cars 2” in spite of that being Pixar’s own first total blunder.

Having just watched “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” just last week some of the voices are a little jarring. But after looking over the film’s IMDB page it appears that it’s only for those of us with the most fondness for the original voices of Sterling Holloway (Pooh) and Paul Winchell (Tigger) will pay any attention. Although, Jim Cummings makes for a far better Pooh than Tigger, and I must say that Bud Luckey makes for a splendid Eeyore. Stuffed to the gills with beautiful throwback animation and chock full of sure to be repeated ad nauseam songs courtesy Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (“She & Him”) as well as new originals sung by the cast.

At one point Pooh says that he wishes a paragraph had been a bit longer, and the same goes for the whole film. It flies by far too quickly, even with the opening short, “The Ballad of Nessie” about the Loch Ness Monster getting the boot from her pond and off in search of a new home. It’s so nice to see everyone back up on the big screen, jumping from page to page and hanging on every word (sometimes literally). So while everyone else is off to see the wizard, you don’t have to visit your thinking place to know that a trip to the Hundred Acre Wood is an even better place to be this weekend.

Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

Friday, July 15, 2011

Movie Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

HP 7.2 has finally come for everyone to say goodbye.

*** ½ out of 5
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images.
130 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Blogcritics.

As I mentioned in my last review for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, some movies are the pure definition of critic proof. After 1178 minutes of wizards, elves, goblins, giants, trolls and horcruxes (which ironically make more sense in this film without any explanation versus in the last film which took time to explain them at ridiculously confusing length), it has finally occurred to me that I simply just don’t care. Of course, I would never say that these films are made for me; they have an audience, and I simply just don’t belong in it. Over $2 billion domestically can’t be wrong, right? As was the case before, the story remains the same for this official Muggle with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

Everyone has their “thing” when it comes to films. I’ve mentioned before that one of mine happens to be the “Scream” series. However, I also highly enjoy “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Lord of the Rings” (if you want to get into comparable franchises). I will never say that any of the “Harry Potter” films are bad films, because they are far from it. Slickly made, highly polished, newly converted to the third dimension for the big finale, they are grand entertainment for sure. But after the single triumph of “Prisoner of Azkaban,” the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling's young-adult novels had yet been able to win me over. Every new film I walk in, cross my fingers, and hope for the best. Personally, it just doesn’t click with me. And that’s fine of course. Just don’t try burning me at the stake over it.

I would never compare these films to the abhorrent “Twilight” saga either. Those are terrible, awful, ludicrous films that spit in the face of myth, legend, and good cinema in general. My main nitpick comes with when someone tries to explain that my lack of enjoyment is based on the fact that I haven’t read the books. Sorry, this is a film; it is a totally separate medium. You do not, nor never have had to have partaken of one to enjoy the other. One is a book, the other a film. They are not the same thing and having never fully enjoyed the series, I am not about to start from scratch and read through the 4,100 pages of what I’ve already seen transpire up on the big screen. That would take way longer than 1,178 minutes I’ve already put into them. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing so.

Another problem is that everything tries to be so big, grand, and epic, thanks to director David Yates swirling cameras and Alexandre Desplat’s roaring score, yet having never read the books everything's so transparent. There are no surprises. Everything has been completely telegraphed over the course of the last “seven” films. Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that as a non-Potter aficionado, a standard patron if you will, there should still be some element of that going in. And thanks to the leak of set photos, even the ending has been spoiled ahead of time. At a mere 130 minutes, I expected this to be the wham-bam thank-you-ma’am series finale that everyone was clamoring it would be. And for “Potter” fans it definitely is. But for the rest of us, thanks to Steve Kloves' marauding screenplay, it turns itself into its own version of “Lord of the Rings” where the battle wages on, and on, and on. So needless to say, pick up your spoons, Boy Wizard fanatics, because you are going to eat this up, and really, that’s all that really matters in the end.

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Friday, July 8, 2011

Movie Review: "Horrible Bosses"

Not completely wish fulfillment per se, but completely hilarious for sure.

**** ½ out of 5
Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug material.
100 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: Horrible Bosses on Blogcritics.

I can only imagine how hard it must really be to get your foot in the door these days in Hollywood. Festival circuits seem to be the most worthwhile. Make something crowd pleasing or maybe even some kind of instant classic and the suits are swiftly upon you. Next thing you know, you’ve gone from a well-received documentary about two rival “Donkey Kong” champions (“King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”), to one of the two worst Christmas revolving films: “Four Christmases;” the other being “Fred Claus.” After taking a breather with some TV credits to hone one’s craft, Seth Gordon finally makes his big screen break with “Horrible Bosses.”

I love a good dark comedy. While my taste runs the gauntlet from “Death Becomes Her,” “The War of the Roses,” “Serial Mom,” “Grosse Pointe Blank,” to “Very Bad Things,” sometimes there’s nothing wrong with horrible things happening to horrible people. Such is most definitely the case in “Horrible Bosses.” “Office Space” this is not. While none of the writers involved are household names, there’s a lot of energy running through Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley (“Freaks and Geeks”), and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s script. Even if there’s also an abundant case of obvious improvisation happening between the cast as showcased during the hilarious end credits.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), all have the epitome of “Horrible Bosses.” Nick works for Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey in a Lester Burnham meets Buddy Ackerman hybrid), aka “Total Fucking Asshole,” where he is lead to believe that he’s first in line to becoming the new Senior Vice-President of Sales. Dale works alongside Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), aka “Evil Crazy Bitch, D.D.S.,” where she likes to sexually harass him by spraying his crotch with water picks or wearing nothing but panties and an overcoat. And Kurt used to work for Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland), that is until the day he dies from a heart attack and the family business is handed over to Jack’s son Bobby (Colin Farrell), aka “Dipshit Cokehead Son.”

Life is literally hell for our trio of friends who like to gather for drinks to “hypothetically” discuss how much easier things would be if they all killed their bosses. At first they figure they could all quit their jobs, at least until they run into their old friend Kenny (P.J. Byrne) who’s so strapped for cash after getting caught up in the Lehman Brothers fiasco, that he’ll resort to $40 handjobs in the men’s room. Now things are looking more literal after Dale finally gives in to the idea after Julia tries to get him to have sex with her on top of his fiancée Stacy (Lindsay Sloane). After they learn the true meaning of what “wetwork” is, the trio uses their new NaviMap friend “Gregory” (Brian George) to guide them to a dangerous bar where they hook up with “Mother Fucker” Jones (Jamie Foxx) who becomes their “murder consultant” for $5,000. Before you can say “Throw Strangers from the Train,” they head off for intel and recon to find what they need to finally find their way out.

It should come as no surprise to see a rapport between Day and Sudeikis. The two played partners in comedic crime almost a year ago in “Going the Distance.” With Bateman as the straight man, there’s no joke these three can’t nail together. While the film may never really play up the more violent means to their end, the verbal sparring is a constant onslaught of hilarious. Just how much of the original script remains intact we may never know, but what winds up on screen is constant gold. Director Gordon keeps things running smoothly with each scenario working more as just a setup to some brilliant set pieces and even manages to pull off a surprisingly effective “boo moment.” It’s also nice to see things not get bogged down with any out of place extreme violence (here’s looking at you “The Hangover Part II”).

So it may not feature the heart of say, “Bridesmaids”; this film is playing more towards the type of crowd who wouldn’t want that anyway. We’re more in the kind of territory “Bad Teacher” is mining to great lengths and this summer seems to be the reckoning of some hilarious comedies. While other summer movies may be relying more on 3-D enhanced CGI spectacle, it’s nice to see a few movies playing things in a more traditional sense. So long as next month’s “30 Minutes or Less” can manage to keep up, we should see summer 2011 batting 4-0, because thankfully, “Horrible Bosses” serves up another home run.

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures